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2012 WSOP Best Bets: Italy
Every year we like to think our vast global poker expertise allows us to predict precisely which players are set to light the WSOP on fire.
Every year, of course, we miss wildy. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.
In keeping with our annual tradition, we asked our international editors to fill us in on players they think are on the cusp of WSOP glory.
By Giovanni Angioni
This year's WSOP will, as usual, be rich in Italian characters with a plan to stack some US dollars and snatch one of those coveted bracelets.
Want to know who to bet on?
Below are the five players ready to bring our beloved flag to the top of the podium in Las Vegas.
Francesco De Vivo
The first player with his eye set on the WSOP is former Everest Poker "Live the Dream" winner Francesco De Vivo.
The Turin-based De Vivo, in fact, has been preparing heavily to return to Las Vegas and take another shot at a career-defining WSOP bracelet.
A former real estate agent, De Vivo never anticipated abandoning his job completely for poker but the game has earned him €718,929 in winnings since 2006.
His achievements testify, year after year, to his improving game.
Beginning his career with a fourth-place finish at the Italian Championship in 2007, De Vivo has recently added a second place at EPT Copenhagen in 2010 and a fifth-place finish at EPT San Remo in 2011.
He also has some experience at the WSOP with a cash last year and a 503rd-place finish in the 2008 Main Event.
This is the year we think De Vivo earns some WSOP hardware.
Our next pick is another Turin-based player in Dario Sammartino.
With total career winnings of "just" €171,724, Sammartino still has the "hunger for victory" typical of young players and we expect that to be a deciding factor.
He also has an interesting technical game that has earned him very good results over the last few years.
Among the highlights are a second-place finish at the Poker Grand Prix of St. Vincent in 2009, a third at the Italian Poker Tour Malta 2 in 2011 and fifth in the Italian Poker Tour event this year in San Remo.
While Sammartino can’t yet boast any memorable results at previous WSOPs in Vegas, he does have an extraordinary performance at the WSOPE under his belt.
Sammartino made a huge run last year in Cannes to take a very solid seventeenth-place in the WSOPE Main Event.
We think he’s ready to being that success across the pond to Vegas this summer.
Much like Sammartino, Sergio Castelluccio is another “outsider” ready to succeed at the WSOP and is simply one of the best Italian poker players of recent years.
A player who can work the numbers like few others, Castelluccio takes his spot in our top 5 for a variety of reasons.
Those range from his #1 ranking in the Italian Player of the Year race this year to his $1.2 million in career earnings to several impressive cashes already in 2012 including a fourth-place finish at the EPT Grand Final Main Event in Monte Carlo for €400,000.
Never over the top and always respectful of his opponents, Castelluccio has been a pro since 2008 and has racked up a 16th-place finish at the EPT Grand Final in 2009, a beautiful IPT San Remo victory in 2010 and a third place in the PGP in 2012 as well.
A constant figure on the Italian Poker Tour In The Money List, Castelluccio will concentrate his efforts on the Main Event this year due to some last-minute circumstances but if the cards fall his way we predict something special.
Our next stop is in Genoa, the splendid Ligurian town that gives us Team Winga pro Rocco Palumbo.
A former accountant and former Magic: The Gathering player like Dario Minieri, Palumbo has an excellent strategic game that has already yielded two nominations for best Italian player and Supernova Elite status on PokerStars.
Born in 1988 and married with a son, Rocco is the epitome of the "down-to-earth" player who knows victories are always the result of sweat and toil rather than lucky coincidences.
That atttiude has earned him €264,528 in his career to date including two Omaha Poker Grand Prix titles (2010 and 2011) and a seventh-place finish at EPT San Remo in 2011.
A second-place finish at the Night of Aces and a second in the No-Limit Hold'Em Mega Event at WPT Venice in 2012 show he’s on form and ready to play.
If he plays a heavy shcedule of events, expect to see his name frequently on the WSOP cashing list.
Giovanni “John” Rizzo
The last spot in our Best Bets list goes to a player on our own personal favorites list for the 2012 WSOP - PartyPoker pro John Rizzo.
Rizzo is one of those players that just seems able to win every time, regardless of what obstacles he faces at the table.
Compared to the players amentioned above, the 28 year old from Emilia doesn’t boast six-figure earnings yet (his total cashes cap out at €85,072) but he's already seen some solid finishes.
A second place at WPT Venice in 2011 (season 9) was encored by a 19th place at the same event in Season 10. A 52nd place at WPT Vienna came this year as well.
Rizzo also has some WSOP experience on his side with three ITM finishes in 2008, 2010 and 2011.
Results aside, Rizzo earns a place in our Top 5 thanks to his extraordinary work in the media world and quest to give Italian poker a newer and fresher image than that built by superstars Pagano, Minieri or Pescatori.
Young and trendy, Rizzo is the perfect testimonial for the modern poker player - no longer “outside” society but someone who appreciates the extraordinary job of a poker pro and shares it with the rest of the world with uncommon sympathy.
Who doesn't love a poker player who knows how to use Instagr.am, right?